Thursday, July 7, 2022

Those Quiet Moments III : Dirt

Wisconsin cornfields in very late fall are hard, unforgiving, and almost untravelable areas where if the weather had been right a few days early, webs of ice can collect, covering the grooves between the peaks of the rows, that sound like glass should your boots penetrate them. 

As a 4th grader, I had a pair of friends that lived across that field, in a dutch colonial house.  They were a couple of years younger than me, my older sister thought they were cute.  We played catch a bit, ran around barnyards and fields and talked about The Incredible Hulk and The Dukes of Hazzard the night prior on Saturdays. 

An older chap, owner of the property, had a fully functioning soda bottle machine in his office which was in a small building just behind the house.  When he pulled up, he would give us an ice cold pop, pat us on the head and send us on our way.

These two, Randy and Stevie, had a great mom with a great smile that would chat with me at the door while the two youngsters got ready to come outside, she'd offer a treat, and giggle when the three of us ran around the yard like goofs.

This short period of pleasantry was just that: fucking short.

One day, when over there, Randy and Stevie's dog (who hated me, which was an abnormality in canines) was inside his huge, flat-topped house, making loud occasional chirping noises.  It was then that I noticed the shirtless owner of the dog, father of my friends, on all fours on top of the dog house.  He was peering over the entrance, swinging his belt which caused the chirps, yelling at the poor thing to stay put.

I'm not the king of bravery, especially at 9, but I must have said something, cause homeboy here told me to "mind my own business and keep my mouth shut."  Which I did, as I was little and he was big, and I left, covering my ears, because I couldn't take the sound of the abuse any longer.

During this time in my life, which was a matter of a few months after my father's death, I kept my head down.  A real shoe-gazer.  I kept a close eye on my mom, at all times for fear of losing her too.  Everything I saw, thought, or found, I seemed to think it necessary to later report to her.

I wouldn't have a regular ride-or-die friend for a couple of years, and I liked the idea of having someone nearby I could play with.  On what must have been only my 4th visit was the dog experience which sent me home quickly.  The 5th, Randy and Stevie introduced me to a cousin who they played with, but was much bigger and faster than I and believed in being a punk.  While running around over at Randy and Stevie's house, I found a stick of smooth Oak, about 7 inches long, solid, with knots and long-ago rubbed off nubs of branches that could double as switches or buttons that gave it almost the appearance of a light saber handle.  I stuffed it in my pocket, so I could show it to my Mom later that night.

While showing it to the other youngsters, this older cousin decided he wanted to see it.  I tentatively showed it to him, but wouldn't hand it over.  This resulted in a foot race.  I made it awhile, headed toward an oasis in the middle of a cornfield with tall, high and stiff grass and a wet dirt base, that I could enter, cut one way or the other, and emerge leaving my pursuer unsure of where I was long enough to make it to my yard, and thusly safety.  Unfortunately, just as I was about to leap into the "oasis" I felt him shove me hard from behind.  I went down hard, chest first, and lost my breath and the light saber stick as it sailed from my coat pocket.  As I lay there, gasping for my breathing to return,  this kid walked around me, uttered "What have we here?", picked up my stick and flung it. To where I don't know, and disappeared from the hiding spot.  It took me several minutes to regain my breathing enough to get up, at first to my knees, then to my feet.  Dusk was quickly settling in, and I spent the rest of the day in a futile search for the stick.  I went home, shoe-gazing and empty-handed.

Visit 6, and the final one.   Randy, Stevie and I were running around in the dry field, flinging dirt chunks, watching them explode into dust clouds like Tanks in a World War II movie.  Just having fun.

Until Stevie fell.

It didn't look like much of a tumble, but he was crying pretty hard.  I rushed to his aid and found out the reason for the tears was he had gotten some dirt in his mouth and thought he was going to die.  I actually smiled, knowing this was a fear I had at one time myself, and began consoling my wounded friend.  

Then his dad came around the corner, and brought with him a hailstorm of hellfire and blame. I tried to explain what had happened but couldn't get in a word edgewise.  He shouted at me to go home.  I replied "I'm going!"

He shrieked for me to fuck myself, smartass that I was.

I never went back.  I couldn't even talk to them, something was poisoned after that and both kids spoke in a horrible way to me going forward, drawing a quizzical shrug and correction from their mom.  I felt her empathy, but their dad wore the pants in that unmarried family.  

Now as an older adult, I shudder at the thought of what went on behind closed doors in that house.  As I walked home with tears forming, I wish I knew then what I know now.  My mom had friends.  Quite a few actually;  friends capable of, lets just say "evening the score".  Hell, I had people like that in my family too, but I didn't know that then and didn't say a word. 

This was the beginning.  A quiet moment that still lingers in my memory.  The start of what my sister would years later call the era of "Rob spending a lot of time alone."  There weren't faces with smiles at school, on the bus, or even in my fucking neighborhood, it seems. Too many exchanges ended with vulgarity, shouting or violence

I kept my mouth shut and my head on a swivel.  

I wasn't the one that fell that cold afternoon, but I was the one tasting dirt.  And for years, it stayed.

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Baseball as Religion: What's Left

      Neil Marshall became one of my favorite film directors with the release of his British Horror-action adrenaline feast, "Dog Soldiers".  If you've seen The Descent, Centurion, Doomsday, The Reckoning, the most recent Hellboy, or episodes of Westworld or Game of Thrones, you're familiar with the man's skillful work.  Soldiers  concerns a military unit, out on maneuvers, that encounter a hellish canine nightmare.  But Neil isn't all about werewolves, fisticuffs and gunfights, he has a heck of a knack for dialogue.  In one of cinema's all time great monologues, Sean "Albert Pennyworth from Gotham" Pertwee, unleashes a story of how one of the men in his former UK unit, deeply entrenched in Afghanistan, had decided to get a tattoo of Satan, ("Ol' Scratch himself") on his personhood.   This bloke, literally blown apart by an IED in the desert, left only one piece complete.  Yes, that "bit" with Beelzebub himself etched in his skin, remained in its entirety.  I'll leave what happens after this jolly piece of storytelling to your imagination, or your time in viewing it.  Because the exclamation point is artwork.


     One of the most stupid things that ever happened in the history of man was when Harry Dalton, who had built the 1982 World Series version of the Milwaukee Brewers, decided the way to fix the struggling 1983 version was to trade James "Stormin' Gorman" Thomas to the Cleveland Indians (Now the Guardians) for Rick Manning.  I still remember the news coverage of this blasphemous act, when Milwaukee News reporters found Gorman sitting in a Milwaukee pub, getting ripped, near tears, trying to dull the pain.  He, and The Brew City, were not a happy collective.

     This trade did not help the team one damn iota.  They weren't able to replace Gorman "in the aggregate" as Brad Pitt's Billy Beane puts it in Moneyball.  This is in reference to recreating the numbers of one Jason Giambi, who had been lost to the New York Yankees in free agency like everyone else in baseball who has a great final year of their contract.  (See:  Milwaukee Brewers' CC Sabathia).  Gorman's run production never came close to being consistently approached, actually.  The Brewers dovetailed into mediocrity, never to return until Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder led them out of the murk in 2008.  This card I have of Gorman,  I am pictured holding below, shows what he looked like in that bar interview, to a certain extent anyway.


Gorman bounced from Cleveland to Seattle, then back to Milwaukee for one final season, where he hit below .200 but flexed that legendary muscle with 10 more homers in limited at bats.  The organization and Gorman, a South Carolina native, never really separated, as Thomas is always around. He's often hanging about in front of Gorman's Grill at the former Miller Park, jawing with fans, chuckling, and signing autographs.  I did that with him myself one day.  Gorman and I had a nice conversation and he signed the bill of my Brewers cap. 

The next morning, I woke up, walked to the living room, and lying upon the floor was the decimation of that hat.  The remains of an assault from my German Shepherd puppy, was a collection of shredded blue, yellow, and gray fabric, cardboard, and plastic mesh.  

One piece remained.  About the size of a baseball, Gorman's signature fitting, in it's entirety, within that fragment. 

Neil Marshall would have been impressed.  It wasn't ol' scratch, but many pitchers of the 70's and 80's felt that Gorman Thomas and his incredible power, and ability to hit in the clutch, was the devil himself.

And Milwaukee still sees him as a baseball angel. Sort of a memory of a time when we captured, and oh, so briefly held the national baseball spotlight. 


Tuesday, July 5, 2022

The Spectrum Files: The Boogeyman


Uli Lommel was supposed to be a prodigy of some sort.  Working as a protege to world famous German auteur Werner Fassbender, it looked like he was off to a running start with the particularly disturbing, but respected The Tenderness of the Wolves.  This was a not so exact telling of the perverse child killer in Germany known as the Vampire of Dusseldorf, a story done much more effectively by Fritz Lang with M starring Peter Lorre.

Effective as Lommel's film was, it didn't launch a career, and several moments of it still linger in my mind, thanks to Spectrum.  (Film school it may have been, its intentions weren't always pure).

By the late 90's/early 2000's Lommel had been conscripted by Lionsgate to make a series of direct to DVD loose attachments to real life serial killers, of which I could only make it halfway through part of one.  Look!  It's David Hess!!  And what the fuck is P!nk doing the theme music for it for?  (These are questions someone needs to address as soon as possible).

Somewhere along the line in the late 70's, he made a slasher film that gained audience attention (and eventually a cult following) because it rode Carpenter's train.  This little trifle was known as "The Boogeyman".  It starts with sex, two children being treated as annoyances, then eventually a grisly murder.  A mirror shatters during the antagonist's death whilst capturing the action.  

Jump forward years later, one of these two unfortunates is now mute, the other living a normal life.  Being that this script is convoluted and stupid, during an estate move, the previously mentioned mirror shatters.  And of course fragments of a murderers spirit are carried  by the shards. And the slashing begins by this captured spirit; like a twisted version of a furniture commercial for Jason Voorhees less creative younger brother.  People get Exorcist-style possessed by the mirror bits, and there's even a house bearing a more than passing resemblance to the Amityville dutch colonial making a ridiculous and unnecessary appearance here.

Now, as a nine year old, this movie scared the shits out of me (as always, shits intentionally plural).  It affected me in such a way that I thought the very existence of evil was imprinted on every frame, like the fictional murderous movie by George Melies referenced in the faux documentary Fury of the Demon.  It scared me that much.

For some reason at this time in my life, my mom, claiming otherwise, took a shine to slashers.  I tried to warn her not to watch this one, as my experience with it had me hiding behind my sister's couch.  

This film did have a particularly effective synth-score (a la Carpenter) that haunted me a bit, especially an opening sting just as the title card is moving on screen.  So, Mom is watching this movie, despite a warning from me as intense as any old man's in any horror movie from the 30's to now.  I have a haunting memory of lying in bed on a Sunday Night, jaunted awake by that sting from the very beginning I described.  I lay there, eyes open in the dark, clutching for my dog Ginger, in spite of myself, visualizing what I had seen the summer previous.  

Thanks, Mom

Thanks, Uli.

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Sort of Spectrum Files: Bill Paxton


Bill Paxton was one of my favorite actors.  His career and life spanned farther and more richly than one may think despite it being cut short in the most unfair of ways.  There are pictures of him as a boy seated on his dad's shoulders at JFK's funeral in 1963. In December of 1980, Saturday Night Live aired the video to the Barnes and Barnes Dr Demento favorite Fish Heads.  


This was directed by Paxton, who also appeared in it.  Paxton was well read despite the inferences that may be drawn from his thick North Texas accent and good ol' boy nature.  He was an energetic, creative soul, and very kind. This I know from a Joe Lansdale book reading I attended just a short while before Covid started choking the United States. The man's description by Lansdale is sacrosanct as far as I'm concerned.  Joe is a straight shooter.  Paxton was going to direct the film version of Lansdale's  The Bottoms, a piece of literature on par with the greatest of writing from two decades before it, and its movie version now sits undecided.  You can hear the emotion in Lansdale's voice as he speaks of all this; this loss of his friend.

Lance Henriksen is the only person standing alongside Paxton as an actor killed by a Predator, a Xenomorph (Alien, for those not in the know) and the Terminator on celluloid.  This being a tell-tale sign of the love uber-successful director James Cameron must have for both men.  Paxton's nervousness can be felt in the viewers bones as he is lowered down to the Titanic in a min-sub as prep for his role in Cameron's Oscar winning film.  You can see and feel these moments in the documentary Ghosts in the Abyss. 

In John Hughes ridiculous teen comedy Weird Science, his oafish moron, Chet, may be the only reason to watch the film now.  It otherwise doesn't hold up, really.  Its quite stupid, largely sexist, and carries a touch of racism that make me uncomfortable.  Yet, to this day I still warble out to people Chet's line:  "Like a greasy pork sandwich served in dirty ashtray". 

 I don't need a reason.  Just Bill. 

Much like the careers of Willem Dafoe and Matt Dillon, Paxton's career and filmography do not sit in the big or the low budget exclusively. He was the loudmouth punker killed by Schwarzenegger in the opening moments of The Terminator.  But then, his career popped off in a murder thriller written by Billy Bob Thornton, One False Move in the role of Dale "Hurricane" Dixon, that is exceedingly underrated, and largely unknown.  Kathryn Bigelow gave him the role alongside Henriksen and Jenette Goldstein, the unforgettable Severin, who is both chuckle inducing, and terrifying in the vampire noir Near Dark.  He'd rejoin Goldstein as the annoying Hudson in Cameron's  Aliens.  Forget Weird Science, his utterance "Game over, man!  Game over!" will never stopped being muttered by downtrodden sports fans in perpetuity.  

What blew me away about Paxton was his touch as a director.  Sadly, we only get to see one example of it, as he only helmed one film, the nearly perfect Frailty. Casting fellow Texans Matthew McConaughey (read of his renaissance here) and Powers Boothe (read the obituary I wrote for him here) in a horror film that not only has moments of true fearfulness, but it'll make you think, and dwell on the nature of true good and evil, and what those words actually mean.  His supporting performance in the movie is also flawless.  Look at his eyes.  He believes in this character and in this film.  Upon release, his pride in it was public knowledge in all forms of media.

By now, Paxton was worldwide. One of his most hilarious roles was in 1994's True Lies from Jim Cameron.  Versatility on display, he brought you a slimy car salesman, lying to women to bed them, who proves his true worth by the end of his character's arc.  Facial expressions sell the package, as he joins the list of great actors selling exact emotion with their eyes and cheek muscles.  A strong performance that held together an otherwise overblown but lovable movie Twister came in 1996, giving him a lead in a huge box office success. Paxton was more believable than most of the CGI tornadoes in the film.  

Bill Paxton was not just a gifted actor, he had the ability to glow in his personality, with his grin and his laugh, and make you feel something like "Hey, I know this guy".   Or at least wish you did. Much like Jack White, Ethan Hawke, and Michael Shannon, he made me DVR talk shows, and very few make me do that.

He was Morgan Earp in Tombstone, Fred Haise in Apollo 13 too, of course. But what may be my favorite (and a quite undersold role), was the one he crawled into and never came out of until after shooting, Jack Belston in Mike Binders Indian Summer.  A movie with one of the all-time great ensemble casts, including  relaxed and lived-in spins by Alan Arkin, Diane Lane, Matt Craven and director extraordinaire Sam Raimi.  I don't think Bill played a character like Belston before, and boy, does he nail it.  By the way, try watching the end of Raimi's A Simple Plan, and dare yourself not to cry during the exchange between Paxton and Thornton at the conclusion in that one.  Can't be done.  These men are thespian geniuses.

Just an observation I've made now:  It's funny how a lot of these names seem to interlace around each other in the career of one Bill Paxton.

Bill died at the age of 61, after complications from surgery.  He had a lot left on his docket, and knowing that makes me sad enough for my eyes to wet.  He had a lot of friends, a family that loved him, and living in a world without him in it, definitely is a bit of an unbalanced situation.  One I hate.

I've held off watching the last film where he's the primary role, Mean Dreams, despite the great reviews.  I haven't even opened it yet. Because once I've watched it, I've watched it, and that won't change as long as its sealed in its crinkly cellophane.

I miss you, Bill.


Saturday, November 20, 2021

Nicolas Cage: Don't Question the Power: Two Generations Views

      I became a Nicolas Cage fan at the ripe old age of 12  (1983) with the film Valley Girl.   He was the Hollywood punker who wins over the heart of preppy Valley Girl, Deborah Foreman.  In the film, he was sarcastic, tough, vulnerable, funny, .... romantic and strong.  I knew I was seeing a different kind of performance.  By the time Raising Arizona was released on VHS, I was first in line to rent it from the Super 29 Grocery Store's video section and watch on my own Symphonic VCR bought with my own money in 1987.   My mom kept knocking on the door to ask why I was laughing so hard.  

     I knew an actor with serious range was upon us, and his next phase of films were quirky cult-level movies, or supporting performances in big budget movies.  By the time Red Rock West and Amos and Andrew were on us, I was his biggest fan.   Jump forward to 2021.  He has been an Oscar winner, a box office action stud, and then gradually suffered what happens to many, the fall to direct-to-DVD.  The difference with Nic is: though he pays his bills with often poorly executed low budget fare (though its well known he gives 100% to projects, regardless of what he's doing and who he's working for) he's also had a ton of fantastic films released in this window of time as well:

The Trust


Color Out of Space


Mom & Dad

Willy's Wonderland

Running With the Devil


     Not to mention a masterful turn as the host of Netflix' genius History of Swear Words.  Genius.

     Eight years ago, my young film critic kiddo wrote a piece about the world's greatest living actor being a "Punk Rock Actor".   Even though penned in 2013, it's still relevant, and still accurate, though Nicolas Kim Coppola was at a different phase of his career.  My offspring, Aidan Will has wonderfully made appearances on this blog before, so I'm proud to present their work here again.


There are a lot of horrid, unjust things in this world, a lot of things that piss me off on a regular basis. Nic Cage is not one of them. I become visibly outraged when I hear folks accuse him of being a terrible actor. This is an awful cliché, but I would say that their dislike of him is simply out of a lack of understanding him. He’s not a chameleon. If you want to watch people disappear into roles to the point that you catch yourself forgetting who they are, you have plenty of viewing options: Gary Oldman, Robert De Niro, Danny Huston, Ben Foster, and countless others. Go nuts, they’re all wonderful. But we’re in a completely alternate zone here.

Nicolas Kim Coppola is the nephew of the legendary auteur Francis Ford Coppola, and Talia Shire, and cousin to Roman Coppola and Sofia Coppola. Lots of Coppolas in the business, it’s undeniably in the blood. Science, my friends. These people generally know what they’re doing.  
            He has described his own acting style as being like a punk rock performance. And if you take a moment to think on that, you’ll know it’s absolutely true. He plays in extremes. He has no interest in subtlety, his habitual “Cage Rage” is more or less a legend of Hollywood lore, and he doesn’t give a shit if people don’t like it. In his four-star review of Werner Herzog’s 2009 film Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, Roger Ebert stated of the starring Cage: “He's a fearless actor. He doesn't care if you think he goes over the top. If a film calls for it, he will crawl to the top hand over hand with bleeding fingernails.” The man often considered to be the greatest film critic of all time was a fan.

In his Great Movies essay regarding the 2002 Spike Jonze film Adaptation, Ebert took his praise further than even I do now, stating,  “There are often lists of the great living male movie stars: De Niro, Nicholson and Pacino, usually. How often do you see the name of Nicolas Cage? He should always be up there.” Now, I’m not saying that simply because Ebert said it, it’s true; people who know me know that I usually wound up disagreeing with Ebert about 50% of the time, he hated a lot of the flicks that are most beloved to me. But damned if he wasn’t a great writer who could give a great argument, and his opinion, parallel to yours or not, is at least an opinion worth respecting.
            A lack of chameleonic style does not mean an absence of versatility: Cage has been a risk taker over the years, and of course has taken much flak for it. That’s why I’m here. Yes, he’s been in plenty of films that are crap. We’d all be happier forgetting The Wicker Man remake, among others. But consider this, while that film was utter shit, we got to see a man prance through the forest in an anthropomorphic bear costume, and punch a woman in the face. Nicolas Cage did that for us. For our sins. Every cloud has a silver lining. He's gonna be in some bad films, most actors, good or bad, will. But consider the great films for a moment, unlike a large amount of my generation and know that they are more than worth acknowledging the bad ones. Think of Raising Arizona, Leaving Las Vegas, Bringing out the Dead, The Weather Man, Kick-Ass, and more. Think of the fun worth having in kooky action films like The Rock, Con Air, Face/Off, Drive Angry and Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. Internet film reviewer/ independant filmmaker Brad Jones, another defender, stated, “When Cage is having fun, the audience is having fun.” He hops from serious dramas to escapist fun and back again with ease.
            So, if you think Nicolas Cage is not a good performer, I strongly encourage you to reconsider your opinion. If you weren’t open to that idea, then why are you still reading this? Leave.  Take a risk and submit yourself to the hilarity of Raising Arizona, or the descent into hell in Bringing out the Dead, or anything that looks interesting to you. A world of various joys and hurts awaits those willing to lock themselves in the Cage for a couple of hours. Yes, I did just write that. No, I don’t care.
Recommended Cage Viewing:
·         Raising Arizona
·         Adaptation
·         Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans
·         Leaving Las Vegas
·         Bringing out the Dead
·         The Weather Man
·         Windtalkers
·         Kick-Ass

Friday, November 12, 2021

The Spectrum Files : Long Weekend


     As I have stated before, Spectrum was my film school, or at the very least, submersion into cinema.  I've credited the programmer as being some sort of genius.  The first-run films obviously were what sold the subscriptions, but many, many films they broadcast became cult classics and legendary pieces of cinema.  Ahead of the competitiors SelectTV, ONTV, and ahead of its time.

     In this case, we're venturing into Oz-ploitation.

     For those not in the know, that's a term for horror films made in Australia, and Spectrum exposed me to more than one.  Patrick, The Last Wave, Razorback, etc.   But the one that hit home was actually not just Oz-ploitation, but Nature Run Amok.  Two genres in one.  This film was remade a few years back with a different title, but since Jim Caviezel was the star, I refuse to discuss. What a massive disappointment of a human being he turned out to be.  Damn fine actor, but a weird Ted Nugent homo-sapien.  Join the James Woods cult, I guess.   Plenty of room.

     I may be immature in this sense, and will probably get over it, because Frequency and Count of Monte Cristo are brilliant, and he wasn't the only person involved in the film making process, so I'll grow up.  Give me a minute.

     Anyway, Long Weekend features a youngish married couple who decide to get away from it all, and do some outdoorsy attempts at bonding which they fail miserably at, because they totally despise each other.   Let's be honest.  They're complete twat waffles, as well.  So they take their tempers and hatred for each other out on their surroundings, a gorgeous woodsy soundscape that doesn't deserve their desecration and pollution and bullshit.  So, naturally, it bites back. 

     So, if the woods, animals and creatures who have suffered abuse fight back, has nature truly run amok? 

     As a youngster, not ensconced in understanding, they were victims of animals who lost their shit.  You know, Jaws, Grizzly, Kingdom of the Spiders, ad infinitum?  As the sun dipped under the horizon outside like a cruller into my mom's Maxwell House, I sat there in my parent's living room compelled, and then horrified at the abrupt and FINAL ending. 

    But I know now that people are turds.  And sometimes we reap what we sow. 

    This movie is available now from Synapse films, distributors of some truly awesome cult classic horror, and some scuzzy shit you probably want to avoid.  I only know that from the catalog. 

     Anyways, you can react two ways to this film.  Depressed is one.  Feeling better about yourself as a person is the other.


Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Samhain Project #20 : Carnival of Souls

      Samhain is a Gaelic word, pronounced (Sah-wihn).  According to the History Channel: It's also "a pagan religious festival originating from an ancient Celtic spiritual tradition,  is usually celebrated from October 31 to November 1 to welcome in the harvest and usher in "the dark half of the year".  Celebrants believe that the barriers between the physical and spirit world break down during Samhain, allowing more interaction between humans and denizens of the Otherworld."

       Today is Samhain, and also the end of my little project.  Also today has a perfect film for the Breaking down of the physical and spiritual world: 

     Carnival of Souls is a tone poem for the damned.   It's a darkened soliloquy, that as good as it looks, it puts you off your guard, because you're uncertain of where it's going, given its realism.  You don't feel any more in control watching this than the lead character is in what's happening to her.

     A young woman is in an incredibly stupid car accident at the beginning, and of the three girls involved, she's the only one who appears to survive.  

     She immediately leaves town, taking an organist job at a Utah church.  She lives in a rooming house while there, across the hall from a quasi-incel who you grow to despise.  Fuck it, you hate him from the jump.  (at least I did.)  The kind woman she rents from and everyone else in her new life is worried about her because she is increasingly and obviously coming apart at the seams, due to the incredibly creepy beings that seem to be stalking her from the woodwork, yet drawing her to an abandoned amusement park at the same time.

     I first saw this on USA's Night Flight circa 1985 and couldn't quite figure out what I was being faced with.  Who could blame me?  I was 14.  However, now I see it as an immense work of visual art with a tight script and solid acting assembled by inexperienced Kansans with limited resources to say the least. George A. Romero (the maestro, rest his soul) himself said the film inspired him to make The Night of the Living Dead (one would think the Richard Matheson I am Legend film The Last Man on Earth probably contributed to that too).  It certainly makes sense, despite the different intensities the two films engender. 

     Carnival of Souls has quite a history behind it that one should research if they have the chance, as all involved deserve accolades for creating something completely unique in its time despite an environment that probably didn't support its stylistic choices.  This was the era of radioactive monsters and Edgar Allan Poe films, after all.  Roger Corman would have never touched this one.  IMDb even states a factoid that the lead actress (and damned good here, I'll note) Candace Hilligoss was dropped by her agent after seeing the film.  It took guts and elbow grease to make Carnival of Souls, and The Criterion Collection noticed that and documented it in 2017.   

     This is a movie saturated with Halloween vibes, and I heartily recommend it.